Is language a tool or an obstacle to our understanding?

7 Jun

I am addicted to coffee! Maybe not “addicted” but I certainly drink a lot of it. I add secret ingredients such as 奶. Other times I add 우유. If I am really adventurous I add молоко! But, most of the time I just add leche….


우유
молоко
leche

Many of my friends probably picked up on the joke immediately; 奶, 우유, молоко and leche are all words for MILK… Just different languages. So today I ask, is language a tool or an obstacle to our understanding?

While this blog is usually dedicated to Chinese martial arts, lets for a minute consider the Japanese martial art of Judo. It is not only an Olympic sport, it is one of the most popular martial arts in the world. It was originally taught in Japanese; but today it is taught in French, Spanish, English, Russian, etc…. But, no matter where it is taught, in what language it is taught, is it NOT still Judo?

When I first became interested in yoga in the 1980’s, there was a lot of discussion of the “subtle body” that can not be seen; i.e that don’t physically exist. It is the same as in Chinese martial arts when people talk about Qi (氣), Shen (神), Dan Tain (丹田) and Jin (勁). HERE IS THE QUESTION: Are we really supposed to be “looking” for these things, OR should we understand them within context as a method of explaining something that can now be explained in other “language” such as physiology, anatomy and physics?

In the yoga community, a significant part of the community has moved away from “subtle body” discussions to scientific discussions and explanations. Which is to say, we are NOT discarding training such as Qi-Gong, but we explain it with modern science and understanding.

Many “internal” martial artists discuss “post standing” or Zhan Zhuang (站桩). Many insist it is a way to develop or build “energy” or strength. Others, such as respected “internal” teacher Luo Dexiu, note that strength is already in our body, and comes from the proper use of the body; i.e. “post standing” makes us more aware of our body. OR, there are rational, scientific explanations to these things.

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